How To Survive: Re-entering the Workforce


Yes, the rumors you’ve heard are true—I am a working woman once again. Now that I’ve braved a few weeks behind a new desk, I’m here to offer my guidance for anyone else looking to reenter the fickle world of employment. Sure, I was only without a job for a little over a month, but before that I was walking dogs for eight months and before that I was in a somewhat lax-Twilight-Zone-y type place. So if you think about it, starting a real, honest to goodness job is a very big deal for me.
Fortunately for you, my suffering brings your enlightenment. Join me as I explain the three periods of Workforce Reentry: Preparation (Mental and Physical), Week One, and Moving Forward.

Mental Preparation for Re-entering the Workforce

Preparing for a new job is, depending on your existing wardrobe, about 30% physical and 70% mental. If you are just transitioning from one job to another, I suspect this doesn’t apply to you because you’re all fancy with your upward mobility. But for those of us who have to leave a bad job in order to sit at home, in bed for six weeks and apply to anything and everything only to actually land an entry-level position somewhere somewhat reputable, preparation of any sort can be a challenge. For those of you who fit into that long winded category, this is for you.

First of all, your 3-4pm nap goes right out the window. I suggest you start getting ready for that now. Force yourself to stay awake all day, drink lots of coffee, get out of bed—anything you can do so that when you do get a job, you won’t be nodding off in front of some spreadsheet.

Even so, sleep is really important when you’re employed. Yes, more important than when you don’t have a job. I had to learn that just this past weekend when I thought it was a good idea to drive back from Virginia at 6pm on a Sunday in a rental car that had to be returned before work the next morning. We didn’t get home until 2am! Sure, I didn’t have to work until 11am and my fiancé, who works at 9am and was the one doing all the driving, returned the car. BUT I was still kinda sleepy all day Monday and that’s uncomfortable.

Physical Preparation for Re-entering the Workforce

Like I said before, if you have a decent wardrobe, physical preparation won’t be too strenuous. However, if you’re like me and you’ve been wearing the same business-super-casual gear for the last six years, this is probably the time to take yourself to a store.

I strongly suggest bringing a guide with you—someone who already has a job and knows how to put appropriate clothes on his or her body. My guide brought me to H&M where we found a lot of pieces that can “mix and match.” That means different skirts can go with different tops can go with that one pair of formal slacks. Also, when you buy subtle colors and patterns, people are less likely to notice how often you re-wear things. You learn something new every day!

Finally, get out of bed. I know I’ve said this already, but getting out of bed helps you both mentally and physically. Try sitting in a chair for a while—your body will thank you when you don’t have to re-learn how to bend your legs at the knees on the first day of work.

Week One Re-entering the Workforce

Which brings us to Week One of the new gig! You’ll be learning a lot in the first week—how to make copies, how to send emails, how to find the bathroom and the kitchen. I suggest you take notes. Also, don’t be offended when the person training you explains these tasks like you’re an idiot. Most people are idiots. Plus, more information is usually better than less information. And you’re definitely going to forget a few things at some point so if you’re all high and mighty at the beginning you’ll certainly feel like an idiot when you have to go crawling back for a second explanation.

Here’s a perk, though: most offices have some sort of free food! Coffee, tea, water, nuts. You’ve been on a budget of $0 for long enough, time to start reaping the bennies!

Moving Forward

After the fear and joy of my first week wore off, I had to face the stark reality of what it really means to be employed. I have to schedule time to catch up on my stories—no more watching episode after episode of whatever the eff I want whenever the eff I want. That’s a sad truth.

I also have to acknowledge a vicious cycle. I was not nearly as creative as I wanted to be when I was unemployed because I was busy looking for a job and watching TV on the Internet. But now that I am a bit more comfortable (money-wise) and am out in the world, starting to feel inspired, I don’t have the time. I have started doodling at my desk a bit more, so there’s always that.
Oh, also, don’t go overboard on the free food. Remember you’re still not moving much during the day, so unless you want to re-physically prepare (by going back to H&M and buying clothes in a larger size), stick to the PB&J sandwich you packed yourself.

Sara Roan

Sara Roan

Sara Roan is a writer and performer. She moved to Brooklyn 7 years ago hoping to figure "it all" out. Fingers-crossed, that should happen any day now.